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Enslaved didn't sell and The Cursed Crusade

Brad Gallaway's picture

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Screenshot

Jennifer Allen over at Resolution Magazine in the UK was gracious enough to forward a link to an article, in which writer Mark Raymond discusses likely reasons why the recent Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has underperformed spectacularly, as some would say.

It's a very well-written piece and exactly sums up my own thoughts—specifically that the buy-in price of $60 is much too high for a game which is known to be a "one time through" kind of experience, in addition to its status as an unfamiliar IP.

If you ask me, this situation with Enslaved was exactly the sort of instance when the industry should have rolled out a lower price point to reflect the relatively small amount of content on the disc, in addition to enticing more people on a budget to take a risk on something that they may or may not like. As much as I hate to say it, $60 is just too much for a game of this sort and as a critic, I would've had a much easier time recommending Enslaved if it had launched at $30 or even $40.

It sucks to factor economics into the critical equation, but that's just real life. I sincerely hope that the industry will snap out of this one-price-point-rules-them-all mentality and realizes that the people buying their games aren't made of money.

Speaking of new IPs, today Atlus announced a brand-new one: The Cursed Crusade. Not much is known about it, but it seems as though they might be trying to capitalize a bit on the success of their recent superstar (and my game of the year for 2009) Demon’s Souls… And you know what? That would be absolutely all right with me. Check out the debut trailer below and see what you think. It's certainly got my attention.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PC  
Developer(s): Atlus   Ninja Theory  

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60 bucks, a necessary evil.

Hey Brad, I agree not all games are not 60 dollars. Would I pay 60 dollars for Enslaved, even though I want it? Probably not. Is it still a quality game? I think it most likely is.

But I would argue that want publishers start taking a stance where they price a game at less than 60 dollars, maybe even 40 dollars if we are lucky, what is keeping them from pricing a game like Castlevania: LOS, at 70 dollars, because of the amount of content it offers. Better yet, why not sell Morrowind for 100 dollars because it offers 200 hours of content. The logic behind the argument still holds.

One could argue that, well, 60 dollars is the upper limit of what a game should cost, though you can not back that up with the same logic one used in the argument to about having prices less than 60 dollars, because there would be no reason to have a cap besides just having an artificial limit because that is the most you want to pay.

Honestly, I would rather games just come out at 60 bucks and if you know it is one time through and no multiplayer, then just wait. Wait for the price to come down. I would rather see Enslaved at 60 dollars than Morrowind at 100 dollars.

Enslaved responses

Hey Pat!

>>But I would argue that want publishers start taking a stance where they price a game at less than 60 dollars, maybe even 40 dollars if we are lucky, what is keeping them from pricing a game like Castlevania: LOS, at 70 dollars, because of the amount of content it offers. Better yet, why not sell Morrowind for 100 dollars because it offers 200 hours of content. The logic behind the argument still holds.

The only thing keeping publishers from pricing their games at a higher level is the fact that they know consumers will balk.

Taking an honest look at the situation, $60 is what publishers think the average person is willing to pay for the average game. Are they correct? Personally, I don't think so. After all, if that theory was right, then why is it that so many games drop so quickly in price? If games were really worth that much and if consumers were really content at that price point, then new games would sell all the time.

However, the truth of the matter is that very few games justify a $60 price point to the average consumer. Rather than admitting this fact, the industry chooses to get upset about used games and so forth. If they really were honest with themselves, they would see that people will pick up a game for what they feel its actual value is, and not a penny more.

Would some people pay $100 for Morrowind or Fallout 3? I think that probably they would, and I think a very good argument could be made for justifying that kind of price tag. At the same time, plenty of games out there would have to lower their prices since there's really no justifying why some piece of $20 crapware has a $60 asking price.

>>Honestly, I would rather games just come out at 60 bucks and if you know it is one time through and no multiplayer, then just wait. Wait for the price to come down. I would rather see Enslaved at 60 dollars than Morrowind at 100 dollars.

See, you just proved my point. What sense is there in pricing a game at $60 when informed consumers don't feel it's worth that much? They just wait for the price to fall and then all of the news sites talk about how Game X’s sales were disappointing. Following that, everyone buys Game X when it sells for half the price on Amazon’s deal of the day.

If you ask me, the industry needs to let go of its outdated business model and start getting in touch with reality. IMO, it would be better if a game like Enslaved came out for $30 new and 500,000 people took a risk on it, rather than asking $60 and getting 50,000 sales.

Times are tough and people want a good value. It's pretty simple.

Is the publisher or the retailer to blame?

Excuse my ignorance, but is the publisher or the retailer to blame?

i) Who prices games in the first instance: the retailer or the publisher?
ii) Is there a wholesale price that publishers sell games onto retailers for?
iiia) Or is there a 'recommended' retail price that forces retailers to sell games at a certain price, a percentage of which must go to the publisher.
iiib) If so then when is a retailer free to apply discounts?

The impulse buying threshold-

I think one of the biggest things keeping games a niche purchase is the sticker shock. Every other piece of entertainment we North Americans consume (books, movies, music) exists within this 10-30 dollar pricing window. People are comfortable with that price, they know that whatever thing they want to buy to be entertained, it's going to cost around 20 bucks. Video games cost three times as much as everything else - and people sense that the majority of them just aren't worth that much more than a movie or a CD.

Games priced under 30 dollars fall into the 'impulse buying' range - you basically can't find anyone making budget titles for the PS3 or 360, but a couple of publishers manage to do good business putting out terrible games for the Wii. How do they do it? The games cost 20$ new: and they understand that people are going to see that, and be able to self-justify an impulse buy.

Games need to exist at a price where idle curiosity is enough to warrant a purchase. My bookcase contains five games that cost me 60 dollars each, and more than a hundred that cost me less than 20 each. There's no reason to take a chance on something that costs sixty dollars.

A few months back I noticed that Alpha Protocol was coming out, and I'd set my mind to picking it up. I enjoy Mass Effect, I like spies - no reason not to, right? When I walked into the store and was confronted with a sixty-five dollar price tag, I had second thoughts. The game's price actually discouraged me from purchasing it - which is the opposite effect that it should be having.

I ended up renting Alpha Protocol and being largely unimpressed with the overall package - but had its day 1 price been 30$, I would have bought the game, and everyone would have won. The retailer would have made a couple of dollars, the publisher would have another sale, and I would have been fairly satisfied that I'd gotten my money's worth on a game.

I've started to ramble now, so I'll just wrap this up - but the point is that although publishers complain about high development costs being responsible for their high prices, it's clear that, on some level, at least, they realize how woefully overpriced their products are - how else can you possibly explain that the only games selling well enough to justify their huge budgets are the ones that also have an advertising budget big enough to jam awareness of the title down everyone's throats? Maybe if a little less advertising money was being spent you could lower the game's prices, and their virtues would sell themselves.

THQ sells cheap games?

Apparently THQ is looking into selling games around the 40 dollar mark. See for your self.

Hey Alv, >>Excuse my

Hey Alv,

>>Excuse my ignorance, but is the publisher or the retailer to blame?

>>i) Who prices games in the first instance: the retailer or the publisher?

From what I understand (and if someone out there knows more about this, please feel free to correct me) the publisher is the one who sets the suggested retail price.

>>ii) Is there a wholesale price that publishers sell games onto retailers for?

That's correct. I don't know specifics and it may vary from publisher to publisher, but the general information I get is that retailers make a very slim profit on each piece of software sold. It may even be something as small as $5 or $10 per game based on a price of $60.

>>iiia) Or is there a 'recommended' retail price that forces retailers to sell games at a certain price, a percentage of which must go to the publisher.

No, the publisher gets paid when retail stores place their orders. It's then up to the retail stores to successfully sell to the public in order to recoup their investment. I have heard some people mention that certain publishers will “buy back” unsold copies of games, but I've been unable to confirm this. Does anyone know for sure?

>>iiib) If so then when is a retailer free to apply discounts?

As far as I know, retailers are free to charge whatever they want for games, but since their profit margin is so thin they need to keep them as close to suggested retail price as possible for as long as possible. However, I think we all know that very few games can maintain suggested retail price for very long… it's extremely common to see a lukewarm title drop in price just weeks (or even days) after release.

In a situation where a retailer has a game that's simply not selling at $60 (which is often) it makes more sense to sell it at a discount price of $20/$30/$40 so the store can offset some of its loss instead of simply having the unsold merchandise collecting dust on the shelf.

I may be a little fuzzy on a few of the details, but I'm pretty sure this is accurate for the most part.

Price point and Cursed Crusade

The likely perception that a game introduced at a lower price point is not as good as one released at the regular price is the reason I doubt you will find the industry adopting your recommendation, Brad. I for one don't think the "time" spent playing a game is that important to it's value, and I would rather play a short, well-crafted game than one that just padded levels with repetitive gameplay. So the shortness of Enslaved didn't stop me from buying it. Also, you can always play a game and trade (or sell) it back, and thus lower the cost of the purchase, which I often do.
Hearing that Atlus is developing a game based on Demon's Souls (my GotY, too) just made my day!

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